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Swanzey ready to unveil plans to fix community center

SWANZEY - Whitcomb Hall and the future of Swanzey's west village is the focus of a discussion at town hall Saturday morning.

All entrants of the American Institute of Architects' New Hampshire Chapter 2013 Intern/Young Architects Design Competition will be presented.

The competition asked the young architects to come up with renovation designs for shuttered Whitcomb Hall. Followed by brief updates on recent developments in Swanzey's west village including a summary of the "Meet Me On Main!" final report and an update on the select board's purchase of the former West Swanzey Athletic Association building.

The town also plans to display historic photos of the west village alongside modern-day photos by resident John Bridges and serve coffee and donuts.

"It's going to be an action-packed morning," said Town Planner Sara Carbonneau.

The hall was built by the town in 1916 with seed money from resident George Whitcomb, a business man who wanted a town community center.

"The building's been vacant since 1988. At that time, there were deemed to be some electrical, plumbing issues," Carbonneau said. "A Whitcomb Hall Committee is working to get its first floor up and running."

At the charrette, residents expressed the desire for the building to return to its use as a community center, at which wedding receptions, school plays and even town meetings could take place, Carbonneau said.

There have been several attempts in the past to reopen the building, including one push to convert it into a town police station, but more recently the idea of reopening Whitcomb Hall has really been picking up steam, Carbonneau said.

"We're coming up on the hundredth anniversary of the dedication of Whitcomb Hall. It was built in 1916 and people are saying 'By golly we are going to have that building up and running by 2016.' "

Another plan for the west village includes the select board's recent purchase of the former West Swanzey Athletic Association building.

That building has also been out of use for many years.

The select board would like to demolish the building and create a waterfront park on the land, Carbonneau said.

The main focus of the gathering on Saturday, though, will be the future of Whitcomb Hall, she said.

Presentations will start at 10 a.m. at Swanzey Town Hall, at 620 Old Homestead Highway.


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